Question the Corporal - arrest versus detention


2024-04-08 09:17 HAP

Under the Official Languages Act, this office provides services to the public in English only. You will find general information in both official languages at and

Aux termes de la Loi sur les langues officielles, ce bureau n'offre des services au public qu'en anglais. Vous trouverez des renseignements généraux dans les deux langues officielles au et

A recent article published by Mission RCMP about an attack on a taxi driver generated significant commentary online, with many people outraged about the incident – and for good reason. A taxi driver was reportedly assaulted by his passenger, who then stole his cab, sending the taxi driver to the hospital as a result of his injuries. A police dog then led officers from where the abandoned taxi was found, to a residence a block away. A female suspect was detained, but was later released pending further investigation. So, what does it mean that she was detained? Is that the same thing as being arrested? Why was she not held in custody if she had committed a violent crime?

In order for police to arrest someone for a criminal act, in general terms they need reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offence under the Criminal Code (there are other factors to consider, however we will keep this simple). The person may subsequently be released by the police officer with a court date, they may be held in custody for a bail hearing, or they may be released pending further investigation.

An investigative detention is a different process. Police can detain someone for investigation of a criminal offence if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the person has committed a particular crime, and that the detention is necessary. It’s a lower threshold than an arrest, however a person is usually released fairly soon after a detention – there is no court date or bail hearing. When there is not yet enough evidence to arrest somebody, an investigative detention is meant as a way to briefly stop someone from leaving, in order to allow time to do things like obtain details from a witness, or review CCTV footage. If the person detained is confirmed to be the offender, then they may be subsequently arrested. If there is still not enough evidence, police will have at least taken steps to identify that suspect, so that if further evidence later confirms they were the offender, investigators can then go and arrest them.

Here’s an example: A robbery occurs at a store in Mission. The store employee tells police that the offender was a white male, about 6 feet tall, wearing blue jeans and a dark hoody. He took off running to the east of the store. Officers patrol the area, and about ten minutes after the robbery, in the direction that the suspect fled, they locate a white male, roughly 6 feet tall, wearing blue jeans and a dark hoody. He’s a well-known offender. Should police arrest or detain? There are indications that he’s the person that committed the robbery, but based on a fairly general description and not much else to go on, it’s only reasonable to suspect that he was the culprit, and he would be detained (just consider how many other white, 6-foot-tall males wearing blue jeans and a dark hoody would be within 10 minutes of the store – probably quite a few). Officers would then see if they could get any additional details from the store employee or other witnesses. If the store had CCTV footage but the employee had to wait until their manager arrived the following day to review it, police would identify the detained male, make notes of his clothing description and any other details, and release him. However, if the employee was able to immediately playback CCTV footage of the offender, and police could clearly see that the male being detained had the same hairstyle, logo on his shirt, and tattoo on his forearm, then there would be reasonable grounds to believe they had the right person, and he would be arrested.

Without going into all the details about the assault on the taxi driver, it’s important to note that at the time, officers only had reasonable grounds to suspect that the female they located was the offender, and so she was briefly detained in order to identify her and her clothing. There was no authority to hold her in custody beyond that. Investigators are continuing to gather additional evidence in order to confirm the identity of the offender, in hopes of holding that person accountable, and helping to keep others safe.

Mission RCMP wants to take some of the mystery out of the world of policing, and answer your questions on a variety of topics. Question the Corporal is your opportunity to ask!

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Ways to connect with Mission RCMP:

Agent des relations avec les m├ędias
GRC de Mission
7171, rue Oliver, Mission (C.-B.) V2V 6H2
Bureau : 604-826-7161
Télécopieur : 604-820-3548

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